I’ll share with you one of the single most important skills and lessons about selling. It’s something my sales mentor taught me many years ago.

My mentor was quite the character. She was this Pakistani woman who wore skin tight leather pants to work every day while selling to the Chief Information Officers of the Fortune 500 — hardly the stereotypical look of a (male or female) corporate salesperson. 

She would work 365 days to land ONE single order from a Fortune 500 company. That order would be for $23 million (an excellent salesperson in that industry sells $2 million per year). Her commission check for that order would be $1 million.

THAT is big ticket selling. 

At the time I met her, I had been out of McKinsey and in industry for a few years. I was incredibly good at selling my ideas internally and had a lot of respect. 

My mentor was the first person to sell me on the idea that I already knew how to sell.

She explained there’s not much difference between selling an idea or recommendation versus selling a product or service.

Then she proceeded to explain to me one of the most important skills and lessons in all of sales.

One of the most important skills in sales is NOT to be a good talker, but rather to be a good listener.

Using your listening skills, you want to listen for something extremely specific when looking to land a mega deal. (This is one of the biggest lessons in sales.)

She said, “You want to listen for other people’s PROBLEMS.”

Very simply put…


She would spend her days roaming the halls of her prospective clients – all Fortune 500 companies.

She would listen for people’s complaints. When she found someone with a problem, especially a big, nasty, incredibly expensive problem, she would get all excited.

People with enormous-sized problems are often willing to spend big money to solve them. Conversely, people with tiny problems often aren’t willing to spend anything at all to solve those problems.

I always remembered this.

It seemed extremely counter-intuitive to me.

I had always assumed a good salesperson would be a good talker.

While that’s true, there’s another aspect to sales I never really considered…

How does a good salesperson know WHAT to say?

THAT comes from being a good LISTENER.

Sales is very simple. You listen to understand the other person’s problem as they see it. You figure out if your product or service can legitimately solve their problem.

If it can not, you walk away.

If it can, you simply “connect the dots” and explain HOW your product or service solves their problem.

That’s it.

That’s the essence of sales.

Now there are more advanced sales approaches, but the core essence of sales is very simple.

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